Low-SES achievers falter in high school

Black, Latino and low-income achievers — kids who scored in the top quartile as sophomores — lose ground in high school concludes a new Education Trust report, Falling Out of the Lead.

The report looks at sophomores who scored in the top quartile in math and reading. Compared to whites and to students of higher socioeconomic status, top-quartile disadvantaged students complete high school with lower grades and SAT or ACT scores. They’re less likely to pass an AP exam or to apply to a selective college.

“These are the students who arrive at high school most ready to take advantage of rigorous and high-level instruction,” Marni Bromberg, The Education Trust’s research associate and co-author of the report, said in a statement. “But to reach the academic levels that they are capable of, they need exposure to challenging curriculum as well as support and guidance from their schools, including in selecting a college that can really challenge them.”

Blacks and Latinos who started in the top quartile were significantly more likely than high-achieving white students to graduate with a C average.

Displaying EdTrust_FallingOutoftheLead_Fig10.jpgCredit: Education Trust

The report praises Ohio’s Columbus Alternative High School, which pushes nearly all students to college.

A Fordham email suggests college-for-all schools don’t challenge urban achievers. “As Tom Loveless illustrated in a 2009 Fordham report, suburban schools by and large ignored the call to de-track their middle schools and high schools, and kept advanced courses in tact. Urban schools, on the other hand, moved to “heterogeneous groupings. That means the high achievers in the suburbs still get access to challenging, fast-paced courses, while those in the cities generally do not.”

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  1. The research I’ve been reading on heritability of intelligence suggests that children’s traits start diverging from those of their environment at about adolescence.  By adulthood, adoptees resemble their birth families quite a bit, their adoptive families not at all.

    The break would begin at about the freshman year of high school.  Interesting coincidence, no?

  2. SuperSub says:

    I’m curious how the inherent differences in elementary and secondary levels could affect this. Elementary grades are a lot more fudgable, with it’s focus on social promotion and lack of focus on actual knowledge.
    Secondary is a lot less forgiving and would reveal student weaknesses that were not previously apparent.

  3. Columbus Alternative is a great school, but it is highly competitive to get in. Everyone there is “college ready,” or they aren’t allowed in the front door to begin with.

    I admire what CAS does, but your average neighborhood high school can’t do the same. It’s hardly a fair comparison.

    • tim-10-ber says:

      I believe the “average” high school can do this or the average middle school…just bring back tracking, make the tracks flexible but with high standards, teachers recommendations and make advanced classes, well advanced. Today advanced classes in many schools are so dumbed down because we all know government education is nothing more than a numbers game in many school vs truly educating kids…

  4. When you reach high school, the ass kickings for “acting White” get worse, and the social rewards for acting like a thug get much much better.

  5. The bottom line is that a student can’t take an advanced course if the school doesn’t offer any, or doesn’t open enough seats. I’m in an ‘average needs’ district in NY, about 30% rural poverty. The parents here have lobbied the district to not offer advanced courses. They view those courses as ‘elitist’. They want the money spent on truants’ remedial needs and special ed. Since this is all politically driven, they rec’d what they desired. And that means capable low income and disadvantaged can’t get the education needed to prepare for college from the school district. These parents need to hit the library and find tutoring or online courses just like the med & high income and advantaged parents do for their children. Or they need to stand up to their neighbors, and vocalize their opinion that ALL children need appropriate coursework, not just disadvantaged and sped.